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Capitals juggernaut takes No. 1

The Capitals, entering Tuesday's action, were just one victory shy of their total for their season of 1974-75. Think about that for a few seconds. Percentage-wise, their 8-67-5 record remains the worst in NHL history (.131). Their road record was 1-39-0. Even some prison teams had better road marks than that. What a difference 37 years makes. Your 2011-12 Washington Capitals are your top-ranked team in the latest SI.com NHL Power Rankings, and why not? They entered the cutoff period at 7-0-0, including a 7-1 victory over the previous No. 1 team, Detroit. NOTE: All records and stats are through games of Monday, Oct. 24.

Without further ado, here is further rationale for the Caps' primo rank and the 29 teams behind them:

NHL Power Rankings
1Washington Capitals
Last Week: 2
With Halloween approaching, maybe it was only appropriate that Madame Tussauds wax museum in Washington, DC honored Alex Ovechkin with a statue. If he and the Caps keep it up, there might just be a real statue of him some day in front of the Verizon Center. The Caps not only were perfect through their first seven contests, they'd outscored their opponents 30-14 and waxed the defensively stout Red Wings. There may be a deficit in Washington, but not with this team's goal differential. Last week: 3-0-0
 
2Pittsburgh Penguins
Last Week: 7
It should be put in caps: this team has one of the league's best records WITHOUT SIDNEY CROSBY. What will the Pens be like when The Kid is back? (His return appears close at hand, but has been a frustratingly slow train coming because the Penguins haven't had many off-days on which to practice.) Losing D-man Zbynek Michalek for 4-6 weeks (broken finger) is a tough blow, but these Penguins have already shown they can band together and play tough through injuries. Last week: 3-0-0
 
3Detroit Red Wings
Last Week: 1
They were due for a loss at some point, though a six-goal thumping at Washington was an unlikely way to go about it. Coach Mike Babcock didn't want to hear any excuses, though. "Coulda, woulda, shoulda. It was 7-1," he grumbled. "The bottom line is two teams came here that both thought they were good, and they were better than us." Detroit was slated to play without starting goalie Jimmy Howard for its first game this week, because of the birth of his first child, which he and wife Rachel regally named James Howard IV. Last week: 1-1-0
 
4Los Angeles Kings
Last Week: 12
Jonathan Quick for the Vezina Trophy! The young netminder entered the week with three straight shutouts. Two more and he'll tie Brian Boucher's record of five straight in 2003-04. Quick began Tuesday without having allowed a goal in 188 minutes 10 seconds, surpassing the Kings' franchise mark set by Rogie Vachon (184:55) in 1975. "I think he's always been a great goalie. What he's done is no surprise to anyone in here," defenseman Rob Scuderi told the Los Angeles Times. "I think it's all just clicking for him now." Last week: 3-0-0
 
5Philadelphia Flyers
Last Week: 4
While they got a nice win over Toronto on Monday night, they lost probably their most valuable player, Chris Pronger, for several weeks to an eye injury after he took a stick from Mikhail Grabovski. Yet another NHL player who stubbornly played without a facial shield is now left to regret it. GM Paul Holmgren said the captain will wear a shield when he returns. The injury dulled the shine of Jaromir Jagr's first two goals as a Flyer. No. 68 can still play at 39. Last week: 2-2-0
 
6Chicago Blackhawks
Last Week: 17
Although they blew a regulation win over Colorado on Saturday, they still look like a hungrier, happier bunch than last season's Hangover Squad. They still have arguably the league's best top-five on the ice, depth-wise, and youngster Nick Leddy has scouts talking about his play on the blueline. The 2009 first-round pick has looked great so far, with four points in his first seven games. He had seven in 46 last season. One thing, though: Daniel Carcillo as a second-line winger? That's not going to last the whole season. Last week: 2-0-1
 
7Buffalo Sabres
Last Week: 3
Not much to carp about with this bunch, though the loss of youngster Tyler Ennis (ankle sprain) for possibly a few weeks is a bad thing. And, getting shutout by a previously porous Tampa Bay team Saturday night ended Buffalo's four-game road trip on a downer. "It's one of those nights where we didn't deserve the points, and we didn't get them because we didn't create enough," right winger Jason Pominville said. Still, the Sabres are right on track for a good point total on the season, and every hockey watcher knows this will be a potentially scary team in the playoffs with Ryan Miller in net. Last week: 2-1-0
 
8Colorado Avalanche
Last Week: 10
OK, so five of their first six wins were by one goal, with some in overtime or shootouts. They're 0-2 at home, 6-0 on the road. This has been a weird start for the former Western power, in other words. It's even weirder when one considers that the only line that coach Joe Sacco hasn't touched so far is the third unit of Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly and Daniel Winnik. "Not when they're playing like that," the Avs' bench boss said. Landeskog had four goals and one assist in his first eight games. We think the Avs will have him stick around beyond the nine-game mark, when players his age (18) must be kept or sent back to juniors. Last week: 1-1-0
 
9Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Week: 5
Another humiliating trip into Boston for Phil Kessel last week. Not only did the Leafs lose big, one of the players the Bruins got via the draft (Tyler Seguin) as part of the trade had a three-point night that prompted a snide TD Garden serenade of "Thank You Kessel." So, OK, it's a long season. Plenty of time for revenge, and overall the Leafs are still showing well through the first two weeks. Last week: 2-2-0
 
10Dallas Stars
Last Week: 11
Dallas Stars (6-2-0)
If Jonathan Quick has a challenger in the early Vezina race, it's Kari Lehtonen. The Dallas goalie entered Monday with a 6-0-0 mark, 1.48 GAA and .957 save pct. Other than Colorado, perhaps no other team has surprised as much as Dallas. Who needs Brad Richards anyway? The Stars have center Jamie Benn, who put up seven points in his first eight games. Last week: 2-1-0
 
11Vancouver Canucks
Last Week: 13
They made a sizable trade Saturday , taking advantage of Dale Tallon's considerable impatience in Florida by heisting David Booth from the Panthers. True, the sacrifice of Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm isn't minor, but Booth is the one with the most talent and potential in this deal. True, he was terrible through his first six games with Florida and not very good last season (minus-31). But he's hit the 30-goal mark before, and on a good team like Vancouver he'll find life easier. He and Ryan Kesler are former U.S. junior national teammates, and Booth figures to play some with a former Florida teammate, Chris Higgins. Last week: 2-1-0
 
12Boston Bruins
Last Week: 9
Their goal differential entering Tuesday was 19-19. That's superior to several teams that have better records, so we stand by the Bs as far as the Big Picture goes. They're trying to wake up from their early-season, sticky-faced Hangover, but they're getting there. "We want to get into a rhythm," goalie Tim Thomas said. "We haven't been able to get wins back-to-back this year. Some of that is because of the teams that we're playing against. We're playing good teams." Last week: 1-2-0
 
13Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Week: 25
Is this Mathieu Garon's team now? After several abysmal starts by 41-year-old netminder Dwayne Roloson, Guy Boucher has turned to journeyman Garon, and the numbers have made the coach look good. Garon shut out Buffalo over the weekend and carried a .948 save pct. into this week. All the main offensive guys are off to good starts, too. Once the goaltending and defense become more solidified, this team will surely move up the chart. Last week: 2-0-0
 
14New York Rangers
Last Week: 26
Yes! We got some classic Torts after the Blueshirts were shut out by Edmonton last weekend. "We sucked from head to toe. I'm not going to dissect it with you guys," said coach John Tortorella groused before stalking off. Torts is petulantly endearing somehow. He acts like a spoiled jerk after losses, but somehow most of the media loves him. (OK, maybe not sparring partner Larry Brooks of the New York Post.) The Rangers finally get to play at MSG now, after traveling the world for their first seven games. They came out with a winning record ? not bad. Last week: 3-1-0
 
15Florida Panthers
Last Week: 15
Let's all tip a cap to GM Dale Tallon while we still can. All that money he spent over the summer has, in fact, produced a winner through the first two weeks. The Panthers got a nice 2-1 victory on Monday night in Montreal, against a team that's in classic desperation mode. "Tonight was a pretty good example of how we win games," rookie coach Kevin Dineen said. "We have good goaltending, our defense plays extremely hard and we need all our forwards. We need that depth to play the way we play." Goalie Jacob Markstrom, who stands tall at 6-feet-6 inches, is looming large in net , literally as well as metaphorically. Last week: 2-2-0
 
16San Jose Sharks
Last Week: 18
They are slowly getting it back together after a rough start. Good road wins at New Jersey and Boston put them back at .500, and victory in Boston never feels too bad for Joe Thornton. "This is where it all started," he said after the game. "They gave me my chance. I love coming back to the city. I've still got so many friends here." The Sharks also got Martin Havlat back from a shoulder injury, so it won't be long before they move well up the standings. Last week: 2-0-0
 
17Anaheim Ducks
Last Week: 6
They look great one night, mediocre the next. The latter type of effort came Sunday against Phoenix, in a 5-4 home loss. Corey Perry is off to a ho-hum start, with four points his first seven games. This team deserves a bit of a pass, though, for starting the season in Europe. Still, this figures to be the kind of team that Anaheim is. They'll have a winning record by the end of the season, but not by much. Last week: 0-2-0
 
18St. Louis Blues
Last Week: 23
Just when some real concern was settling into St. Louis about this team -- especially after its 5-0 loss at Los Angeles -- it got back to .500 with a couple of encouraging wins over Carolina and Philadelphia. And, for now, Brian Elliott is the No. 1 goalie, ahead of the much-better paid Jaroslav Halak. "Internal competition drives a hockey team to be better every day and this is no different," coach Davis Payne said of his goaltending situation. Last week: 2-1-0
 
19New Jersey Devils
Last Week: 16
Their record is respectable, but will it still be a week from now, after a three-game Western swing that kicks off Tuesday in Los Angeles? The return of Zach Parise can't be overstated when it comes to this team's potential good fortune. Still, the Devils just don't have the swagger they had in the old days. You played the Devils, you knew you were in for a black and blue night from Scott Stevens, et al, and Marty Brodeur would be there to back it all up. Last week: 0-1-1
 
20New York Islanders
Last Week: 8
Back to Earth. After winning three of their first four games, in two of which John Tavares potted a combined eight points, the Isles fell back last week. Consecutive losses to Tampa Bay and Florida brought their record back to .500. "We have to get better on the road getting our feet going and using our transition game, getting in on the forecheck," Tavares said. "We had some good first chance opportunities, we just weren't getting those second chances." Last week: 0-2-0
 
21Minnesota Wild
Last Week: 24
This has been a up-and-down squad, but the fact is it gained at least a point in six of its first eight games. Still, the Wild have an annoying habit of not showing up at home a lot now -- a bad loss to Pittsburgh there caused a team meeting afterward. Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi haven't set the red light on fire yet, but they're battling every night at least. The goals will come. Won't they? Last week: 1-1-1
 
22Edmonton Oilers
Last Week: 22
Despite five goals and seven points in his first seven games, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still hasn't been told for sure if he'll stay for the full season. If the Oilers do send him back to Red Deer after the nine-game decision mark for junior-age players, they'll make every team in the West very happy. What's there to decide with this kid? He's got FIVE GOALS. "I'm going to go into (Tuesday) night and just play and see what happens after that," he said on Monday. Last week: 1-1-1
 
23Nashville Predators
Last Week: 14
Something is wrong with Barry Trotz's usually efficient crew. While their won-loss record remains respectable, their goal different (15-20) is very un-Predator-like. They looked like a junior B team against the Canucks lastThursday, though they shrugged it off to shut out the Flames in Calgary two nights later. "We all were mentally prepared and just ready to go," goalie Pekka Rinne said after the win. You have to believe that this team will get on a good roll at some point. Last week: 1-1-0
 
24Carolina Hurricanes
Last Week: 20
Don't be fooled by their respectable record. Fact is, these Hurricanes are a minus-5 in goal differential (22-27) and just haven't looked all that impressive. Eric Staal, for instance, is already a league-worst minus-10. On Saturday, the 'Canes looked gassed after taking a 2-0 lead in Winnipeg only to collapse in a 5-3 loss. "We've played six of our eight games on the road," coach Paul Maurice said by way of explanation. "We've played some good teams lately. I don't like this game. It taints the mood. But overall I've been happy with our start (to the season)." Last week: 1-1-1
 
25Phoenix Coyotes
Last Week: 21
Their numbers still look OK, but there's no doubt that this team is on the decline. Mike Smith just ain't no Ilya Bryzgalov in goal. Thing is, coach Dave Tippett still finds ways to wring out wins, in particular a gritty 5-4 win over the Ducks. Said captain Shane Doan: "We count on every single line to contribute. It can't be just one group. We don't have the luxury of (Anaheim's) Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan line. We have to have everyone going and everyone forechecking and creating things off the pressure." Still, it's going to be tough for this team to finish in the top eight . Last week: 1-2-0
 
26Ottawa Senators
Last Week: 29
Just when cynical scribes were about to bestow a season's worth of mockery on the Sens, they win a couple games over the weekend to get back to something of a decent record. They had to score twice in the final minute to get a 4-3 win over Columbus (not exactly a powerhouse) on Saturday, and that W came on the heels of one over Winnipeg. Still, it hasn't been pleasant in Ottawa, where high-priced D-man Sergei Gonchar has been booed every time he's touched the puck now. Last week: 2-1-0
 
27Calgary Flames
Last Week: 28
GM Jay Feaster preached through the summer that his team needed to get out to a good start to avoid him looking to the trade market for change. That start did not happen, which means there are rumors everywhere that he is already looking to move bodies -- especially when he'll have 12 unrestricted free agents next summer. Last week: 1-1-1
 
28Winnipeg Jets
Last Week: 27
Dustin Byfuglien just hasn't taken well to Winnipeg, or so it seems. After eight games, Big Buff was minus-6 with one goal and three points -- after six points in his first eight last season. Maybe that drunken boating charge (he's pleaded not guilty) is weighing on him like a rusty anchor. Still, the Jets are finally on the on the win ledger, and it wasn't such a bad week overall. But this team figures to be down here in the dregs for most of the season. Last week: 1-2-1
 
29Montreal Canadiens
Last Week: 19
Mon dieu, what has happened to the Habs? Carey Price has been odious in net, and whipping boy Scott Gomez (he of the bloated contract and famine-like production) contributed one point to the cause in six games before going down with the dreaded upper body injury. The Habs play a fast game that is actually entertaining, but keeping opponents off the board has been very problematic. Last week: 0-3-1
 
30Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Week: 30
Sweet victory was just a minute away, and the opponent was Ottawa, but even these dismal Jackets could hold on for a token win over a bad team, right? Wrong. Two shocking Senators goals before the end of regulation and a 4-3 loss kept Columbus winless. "We're in tough times," said Rick Nash, stating the painfully obvious. "We've got to stay up, we've got to stay positive, and the leaders have to lead and keep making the young guys follow." Last week: 0-3-0
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